‘Will presume all Covid cases to be of Omicron variant’: Assam CM amid new curbs
GUWAHATI: Assam will presume that all Covid-19 cases in the state are of the Omicron variant, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday as he unveiled a new set of restrictions to control the spread of infections in the state. Sarma said there has been a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases being reported in the state and the government did not want to waste precious time waiting for a confirmatory genome sequencing test.
“To get details (confirmation) of Omicron, we need to conduct genome sequencing, which takes 4-5 days. By this time, the patient recovers from Covid-19, but has already transmitted the Omicron variant. Hence, we have decided from now we will presume each new Covid-19 case in Assam to be that of Omicron variant,” the chief minister said.
The chief minister said Covid-19 infections are expected to cross the infection’s peak seen in the first two phases of the pandemic, a daily count of 6,500 new cases, between January 20 and January 30. On Thursday, Assam recorded 844 new cases.
The state has received confirmation of the Omicron variant, which is driving the massive surge in daily infections across the country, in only 9 cases. It is not clear how many samples were sent by the state for genome sequencing.
“We assess that this time the peak might be anywhere between 10,000 to 12,000 or maybe more. So as per our estimation, the number of infections will be much more than the first and second waves of Covid-19. Therefore, we have devised some new measures to face the third wave of the pandemic,” he said.
The chief minister said that testing, which is around 30,000 daily at present, will soon be ramped up to nearly 100,000 daily. There will be compulsory testing at airports and railway stations of incoming passengers who are non-vaccinated or have only taken one vaccine dose. Those below 15 years will also have to undergo compulsory testing on arrival.
Double-vaccinated passengers will be asked to undergo the test at home or in hospital. If they test positive, they should intimate authorities of their status so that measures such as contact tracing can be undertaken.
“Since Omicron usually has mild symptoms, we are advocating home isolation for positive patients provided they have a caregiver at home who can be in touch with the health authorities if their condition deteriorates. We will provide a medicine kit and tele-counselling to positive patients,” said Sarma.
“Those found positive will be automatically declared as negative after a period of seven days since confirmation. People getting hospitalized will be released after five days unless their condition is serious. Once released, they will have to undergo home isolation for another seven days,” he added.
The chief minister said the government is encouraging home isolation at present so that hospital and ICU beds can be kept for those in serious condition. And unlike earlier, this time treatment of Covid-19 positive patients (except BPL patients) won’t be free and they will have to pay for services provided.
Sarma said Assam has around 9,000 beds available for Covid-19 patients and it will be increased to 25,000 beds in the coming days.
From Saturday, night curfew timings will be from 10pm to 6am. Wearing masks in public places is mandatory and police have been instructed to impose fines on those found violating this rule.
Sarma said the state has nearly 5.5 million persons who are yet to take their second dose and to ensure that they are fully vaccinated, the government has decided that only people who have received the two vaccine doses will be allowed entry into hotels, government and private offices, restaurants and business-premises.
“Except hospitals, one will have to be fully vaccinated to visit any other public place. From January 15, government employees who have not got both doses of vaccine won’t be allowed entry to offices. At first, their absence would be adjusted with their due leaves and once that gets over, they won’t get salary for days they are absent from duty,” said Sarma.
He said that if non-vaccinated persons enter a public place, the owner of the premises will have to pay a ₹25,000 fine. The fine would be less for small establishments, and in government offices, the person-in-charge will be held responsible. From January 15, only double-vaccinated persons will be allowed to use public or private vehicles.
“Nearly 5.5 million eligible recipients in the state are yet to take their second dose of vaccination and the restrictions we will be imposing will affect this segment. I appeal to this segment to take their second dose before January 15. The restrictions won’t apply for those between 15 and 18 years as they are not yet eligible to get their second doses,” said Sarma.
From Saturday, all classes till standard 5 will remain closed across the state till January 30. In Kamrup (Metro) district (which includes Guwahati), classes will remain shut till class 8. Students of classes 9, 10, 11 will attend classes for three days a week, but those from Class 12 and above will attend classes regularly.
Till Friday afternoon, Assam administered 38.5 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Of this 22.3 million are first dose recipients and 16.2 million have received both doses.